40K Lore: The Vespid Menace

Loremasters, its time we talked about the greatest secret weapon of the T’au Empire – the illusive Vespid.

The Vespid, known as Stingwings by the Imperial Guard or Mal’Kor by the Tau) are an insectoid race allied with the Tau Empire.

Hailing from the world of Vespid, the race was already fairly technology adept when they were approached by the Tau Empire‘s Water Caste diplomats. It seemed unlikely that the Vespid would ever submit for the Greater Good, as their mindset was so freakishly different to anything the Tau could understand that their emissaries made little headway. However after the Ethereals provided the Vespids with a custom-made communication headset, the Vespids suddenly became completely complient, calmly accepting total annexation by the Tau Empire. Rumors have circulated every since as to what true purpose these headsets serve.

The inhabitants of the planet Vespid are a bipedal, vaguely insectoid race which have a sturdy chitinous exoskeletal barbed armour that encases their bodies. They stand somewhat taller than the average human and appear to be much faster, due to the chitinous wing-like protrusions on their backs which emit a ultrasonic tone, which they use to control and modulate their technology. They have three pairs of eyes running in two lateral lines down their faces, one perceives the ultraviolet range, the second perceives the normal visible spectrum, and the last sees the infra-red. The females are larger.


The Vespid warriors, called Stingwings, form tactical units referred to as Strains. Each Strain is lead by a Strain leader. Because the Vespid language is so complex (presumably because of their complex mouths) and only the Strain Leaders are given the apparatus to translate their language to their Tau allies, Vespid Strains are very close knit and a lot of reliance on Strain Leaders comes from both sides.

Stingwing Strains are highly sought after in Tau Fire Warrior Cadres because of their high level of maneuverability. They are often used by Tau commanders alongside Crisis Battlesuits or used in a scouting role, backing up Pathfinders. In the Tau language they are referred to as “Mal’kor,” which comes from “Mal” meaning insect and “kor” meaning air.

The Vespids’ technology is based around exotic crystals which are only found on the bottom of the floating islands of their homeworld, which they manipulate with the ultrasonic sounds manipulated from their wings.

From the Tau they have gained armor and weaponry, and a Vespid Communion Helm that enables them to more freely communicate with other races (as their own language is extremely complex and for the most part inimitable). Their weapons are a mixture of Tau technology and Vespid resources enables them to act as specialist against heavily armored troops (specifically the Space Marines, whom the Tau have always had problems fighting against).

The Neutron Blaster which the Vespid Stingwings carry, is a unique blending of Tau technology and the unstable radioactive crystals that the Vespid mine. The energy harnessed from the crystal allows the weapon to strip atoms off of the target. Due to the Vespid’s wings creating different harmonic resonances within the crystal, they are the only creatures able to effectively wield the Neutron Blaster.

In terms of their own technology, the closest thing that has so far been recognized is their own wings. It is unclear yet just how their wings are used, whether they are flexible enough to oscillate fast enough or are capable of ejecting fluid or plasma to produce lift, is yet to be ascertained. In either eventuality they are capable of flight and are often deployed onto the battle field from the air, enabling them to join the battle in the most suitable location.

Learn more about the Vespids at the Lexicanum!

  • Vanders

    “…vaguely insectoid race…”. Only vaguely? I don’t want to picture what you would consider full insectoid. I’m getting Starship Troopers Arachnids flashbacks.

    • D. B.

      Which was a really weird choice of name IMO, seeing as Arachnids aren’t insects.

      • Chris

        Neither are the things in Starship Troopers. They’re just referred to as “bugs” throughout.

        • D. B.

          Not in the short lived animated series, which stuck closer to Heinlein’s works and where they are indeed called “Arachnids”. However – particularly in the case of bug design, the series took major clues from the movies.

          • Chris

            Do the ones in the book have eight legs? Because insect or no; it DID always strike me as weird that they called something with six legs an arachnid.

    • Dexter Kingsford

      To be fair, vespids are bipedal tetrapods with digitigrade hindlimbs and vertically hinged jaws. Their body plan is more derived of most terrestrial vertebrates than any insect. Even tyranid gaunts are what I would consider partially insectoid.

      • LordKrungharr

        A perfect match for spacefaring bovine fish people.

    • Stuckinabox


    • Haxor

      Insects ALWAYS have six legs. For that matter they only resemble them vaguely

      • Vanders

        If you took a beetle and gave it an extra pair of legs it would still look like a beetle. That pair of legs alone does not suddenly make the beetle only vaguely resemble a beetle. Not that I was being so serious with my original comment.

  • Snord

    I think you meant “elusive”. Unless by “illusive” you’re referring to the illusion that they have any practical use as a unit.

    • Jeff Daniels

      Oh snap!

    • marxlives

      That burned so hard it burned me.

  • Simon Chatterley

    The wings on them things look terribad. Them models have not aged well.

  • Pl4gu3 B4st4rd

    Always wondered why Vespid guns were not available to other t’au warriors. “Why don’t you buy their crystals and equip your own fire warriors ?!!!”

    • Koen Diepen Van

      According to the fluff the crystals resonate to the frequency with which the Vespid wings vibrate. And that makes them work. (not a great reason)

      • Pl4gu3 B4st4rd

        That’s why I wonder why they can travel lightspeed but can’t find a device to make it work light vespid wings.
        Game mechanic reason (and too much plastic guns on the sprues)

        • LordKrungharr

          The wings must also be a communication device which can speak to the midiclorians inside the crystals.

      • Donald Wendt

        You’d think some enterprising Tau sound engineer would just sample the audio of various vespid wing beats and then play it back on his ghetto blaster.

    • georgelabour

      In addition to what another poster said the crystals used are ones native to the vespid home planet.

  • YetAnotherFacelessMan

    I always liked that they gave the strain leaders “Translation helmets” so the strain leaders could “understand their commands”…

    Or, you know… mind control helmets.

    Strain Leader: “We must now charge that carnifex. The tau demand it.”
    Vespid Beta: “… yes sir?”

  • ZeeLobby

    I think it was before the launch of their 6th edition rulebook, but there were rumors flying around of Demiurg HQs, more vespid units, and Tau finally becoming an army of mixed alien races. Then we just got bigger robots and sad alien rules. What a disappointment Tau as a theme have been. So much potential that they’ve pretty much ignored.

  • Kabal1te

    I don’t know how you justify calling Vespids a menace when their rules have always made them a joke

  • Chris

    Always thought these were among the worst models of their time.

    Would love to see them get a re-design and fleshed out a little in the same way as the kroot. Vespid queen model anyone? Or some sort of brute class thingymajig. I’m picturing Ogryn-sized vespids with stings similar to the original ‘nid warriors. In fact I still have a couple of the original plastic ‘nids in my bits box, so even though I don’t collect Tau this may become a conversion project at some point…

  • Spacefrisian

    So secret i rarely see them. Seen them one time in action, the past 17 years.